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PostBritain's NHS, and an Open Letter (John Heelan, UK, 09/29/17 3:03 pm)
As Tim Brown commented, "Who pays?" is critical unless public health is regarded as a public good and not a profit-making enterprise.
I speak with some heated feeling on this matter because the once pride of the UK--the NHS--is slowly being salami-sliced into the hands of the private health industry. No wonder that industry donated over a million dollars to the Tory Party campaign war-chest for the 2010 general election and found other ways to provide funds that escaped the rules of the Electoral Commission.
The rot started when the then government decided that the Chief Nurses of hospitals (Matrons) would no longer have powers over budgets, catering and cleaning as well as being in charge of nurses. They had the powers to withhold payments from catering and cleaning services if they did not think they are giving the best service to the NHS. The government allowed private companies tender for cleaning services. The net effect of the change has been a rapid decline in the quality of cleaning. There are not enough cleaners despite--or because of---their pay rarely exceeds the Statutory Minimum Wage lower limit. Family members working in the NHS confirm this. The lack of cleaning is accompanied by a rapid increase in avoidable hospital-acquired infections and diseases such as MRSA and the so-called Winter Vomiting Bug (Novovirus) that exacerbates the problem by having to close wards due to staff illness. I have known two people who have died from MRSA infection. The second major cause of the decline of funds for the NHS by the then (Tory-Lite) Blair/Brown Government's decision to shift NHS construction and other expense from the UK capital budget by offering the funding to private investors on 20-35 year contracts, generating £831 million profits for them in the last 6 years alone.
I am so disgusted with the way the UK's NHS (once the pride of the UK) that I published this public letter in complaint:
"My Life a Full Life"? (A local PR programme for the elderly). The reality is that the Isle of Wight's elderly community is implicitly being transferred to a latter-day end-of-life "Osborne Pathway" project--or what the Chinese might call the "Death by 1000 cuts"!
What are my choices if I feel unwell as an octogenarian?
1. Wait 2+ weeks for a GP appointment.
2. Call 111 for a medically unqualified Call Centre clerk to make a decision on my health needs.
3. Call my GP surgery for an appointment to encounter
an unqualified receptionist deciding whether I can see my GP or not.
4. In extremis, calling 999 (911 in US-speak) only to be
added to a series of queues.
4a. the queue waiting for an ambulance/paramedic.
4b. the queue waiting to be seen by overworked,
stressed A&E physicians and nurses.
4c. the queue in a corridor on a stretcher waiting to be
admitted (or to die).
5. Alternatively, be directed to the Mainland for tests and treatment (five changes of transport media and six hours travel there and back.)
The net effect is that many people of my age have lost trust in an NHS that is failing us at a critical stage in our lives (and deaths). Thus we are ignoring it and writing an implicit "NHS Slow-Motion Suicide Note." Did the Health Secretary (Jeremy Hunt who has earned a pejorative description in rhyming slang that a BBC reported once let slip) intend this outcome?
After some 70 years contributing to the NHS via NI and taxation, my own end-of-life pathway will be strewn with so many obstacles that will inevitably cause unnecessary distress to me and my family.
JE comments: Neo-liberal dogma teaches us that privatization and competition lead to better service and efficiency. John Heelan clearly shows us that this does not apply to the NHS. John, did you publish your letter in a local newspaper? If so, what was the response from the public?